Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 24 February 2012 00:00
New York State Senator Carl L. Marcellino held a Community Forum at the Glen Cove Public Library last week to give people an opportunity to ask questions and get answers about anything on their minds in an informal setting. The event drew a good-sized crowd despite the rain, and several people came prepared with questions.
The biggest concern on the minds of a lot of people was hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release natural gas deposits and how the waste from that practice could affect Glen Cove and its residents. The discussion began smoothly but turned into a heated debate at several points as residents mentioned their fears about the health implications and mistrust of the government.
The senator said that it is up to the government to make the decision on whether or not the process is safe, and that decision has not yet been made.
Although there is no likelihood of hydrofracking on Long Island any time soon, residents of Glen Cove are concerned because the city is on a list of possible sites for waste disposal. Marcellino stressed that this does not mean that it will be done, but that it could be since there is a sewage treatment facility in Glen Cove; he then said that in order for waste to be disposed of here, permission must be granted from the county executive. Marcellino assured the audience that Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has told him he would not allow it.
“It’s not going to happen, so don’t worry about it,” Marcellino said.
A woman in the audience raised her concerns about the chemicals that are released in the process, and the possibility of those chemicals getting into the water supply.
“The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will look at the regulations and determine if it can be done safely…no waste water will come through the city of Glen Cove,” replied Marcellino.
Some residents expressed their doubts about the senator’s claims, even though he remained confident that there is nothing to be concerned about at this time. The long-term implications were on the minds of several people; the proposed fracking sites are upstate, yet the fact that fracking waste is currently being shipped long distances raises red flags for some that the waste could be sent here at some point. Several residents said they had no confidence in the DEC and others brought up the fact that the sewage treatment plant was recently sold to the county and could be bought by a private company, which may eliminate the voice of the people.
Marcellino kept trying to change topics but the discussion kept moving back to the fracking issue; one resident cited a recent problem and said that he is concerned that there’s no oversight at the DEC and that they don’t have the safety measures in place for something so big.
“They are under-funded and inefficient with what they are doing right now – they have already failed us,” the resident said.
The senator asked him to give him the stats he referred to and to sit in on a meeting with him to find out what has happened.
The topic of discrimination was also discussed when a group of transgender people stood up and urged the senator to become a sponsor of the GENDA bill, a trans civil rights bill that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression throughout New York State.
“Please help us in our struggle for basic human rights,” said Julie Owens, who spoke on behalf of the local transgender community. She said that there is currently no legal protection for this group of people and that they can currently be denied such basic rights as housing, employment, service at restaurants and even cab rides.
“I do not think the GENDA bill will pass as it stands – it needs some tweaking. No one should be discriminated against but I can’t support it as is…the issue is important and will be discussed…if it is changed, then yes,” Marcellino replied.
There was more discussion about environmental concerns for the area and finding alternative power sources. The senator talked about the benefits of wind and solar power but mentioned they are not efficient enough, and said that a combination of clean energy sources as well as gas and oil makes the most sense. He tried to further assuage the fears that people may have for the water to become a dumping ground for waste.
“We are the waterfront for the State of New York; so the state wants clean beaches, clean air and clean water…it’s cleaner than it’s ever been…we need to praise what’s good, and look at what’s a problem and move forward,” he said.